Every day the news is filled with stories of the problems, delays and costs associated with new Brexit processes. At the same time, we hear first-hand about challenges from our own customers and prospects. It all makes us very much aware of the struggles organisations face:
- Eighty times the number of customs forms required to feed a just-in-time supply chain.
- Shipments delayed or cancelled because of improper documentation.
- Hiring hundreds of employees to rekey customs data and handle related service issues.
These issues are just a sampling of the strain Brexit processes place on exporters, importers and logistics providers. It’s no wonder many organisations may feel defeated, as if there’s no way to overcome them.
But there’s hope. A new breed of intelligent automation makes it possible to cope with Brexit’s paperwork and adapt your workflows to increasingly complicated import and export procedures. To scale in a way that meets the current demands of Brexit and changes that are on the horizon, companies should look for three capabilities in an advanced intelligent automation platform.
One of the chief complaints businesses have about Brexit is the growing volume of paperwork. So, a single system that’s capable of processing both physical and digital documents, as well as extracting important data, is a key requirement for automating the post-Brexit trade process. In order to accelerate and scale information-capture, look for features such as cognitive capture and artificial intelligence (AI).
Cognitive capture combines a number of processing technologies, such as optical character recognition (OCR) and pattern-matching to intelligently automate the capture, analysis and integration of both structured and unstructured data. Brexit is increasing the number of complex documents that businesses have to work with, such as CMR waybills, commercial invoices and Single Administrative Documents (C88s). Manually processing these causes delays, increases costs and results in more errors. Cognitive capture, on the other hand, allows companies to automatically read and ingest data from such documents, keeping business operations running smoothly.
Artificial intelligence augments the business rules that are an intrinsic part of document processing, using algorithms to quickly identify and classify different information based on training sets. An AI-powered system is much faster than writing code or relying on scripts to identify and process documents and data. Your intelligent automation platform should include AI technology such as natural language processing so your bots can “read” incoming documents or emails, and match them to the right shipment, purchase order or record in your ERP. If the AI can’t find a match, documents are immediately routed for human assistance. The system continuously learns from exceptions, improving its ability to handle similar documents and communications in the future.
Brexit has added steps, integration points and requirements into already complex processes involving many different companies, organisations and applications. For example, customs systems designed to work within the common market framework are being updated or replaced to model international trade requirements. Likewise, logistics software providers have introduced new interfaces and data formats as part of their Brexit-readiness strategy. In order to support businesses in this new model, an intelligent automation platform must be able to connect disparate systems and orchestrate workflows.
Integration is a core capability for any platform that can scale and automate trade processes. The system should be able to support both simple scenarios, like connecting an inbox to read incoming email, as well as more complicated ones, such as deep integration with ERP and accounting systems. The best platforms include capabilities to simulate keystrokes in a legacy client or web user interface and can connect to the latest RESTful web services to unlock any integration requirement.
Ecosystems of technology exist in every organisation. The intelligent automation platform should seamlessly fit into the landscape via prebuilt adapters that connect to core systems. This includes deploying and scaling on your cloud platform of choice, enabling companies to leverage the efficiencies and low costs of platforms like Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services. If fast time-to-value and minimal overhead are priorities, look for software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings where system administration is managed by the vendor.
Brexit has changed existing workflows, such as the information required to transport goods between the EU and UK. Completely new requirements have also been introduced, such as the Northern Ireland Protocol and the Kent Access Permit for HGVs. To keep pace, organisations need the ability to automate routine workflows and streamline business processes.
Process orchestration models, manages and monitors the different actors and systems in a given workflow. Business process maps define the high-level steps required, embedding rules and service-level agreements into the framework to ensure successful execution. By monitoring the time, resources and costs associated with each step, organisations can easily identify opportunities for improving efficiencies. Similarly, when a new step is added to a process or an existing one changed, a no/low-code intelligent automation platform makes the change simple—without a lengthy development cycle. Process orchestration provides the agility needed to quickly adapt to complex processes and meet new requirements.
Task automation deploys software robots to replace or complement what have traditionally been manual tasks. Brexit has introduced a number of labour-intensive activities such as entering data, looking up commodity codes and filling out forms. With robotic process automation (RPA), an army of automation bots enable companies to scale up capacity without the costs and overhead of expanding their workforce. Whether you need to reply to emails, locate purchase-order data, look up commodity codes or submit import information in a customs declaration, robots can quickly address the repetitive, time-consuming nature of tasks involved. Human workers are free to focus on higher value customer service and decision-making activities. If staff members do need to engage with the system, they can do it through an intuitive web or mobile interface that can be accessed from anywhere. They can even scan packages or documents as they arrive using their phone.
Intelligently Automate the Challenges of Brexit
An Intelligent Automation Platform that provides capabilities such as AI classification, cognitive capture, back-end integration and process orchestration provides organisations with an elegant and agile solution. Scalable, end-to-end automation capable of handling Brexit’s requirements and challenges becomes a reality.
Many Brexit processes require a complete and consistent set of documents before they can be implemented. The new breed of intelligent automation platform can assemble and verify that the correct certificates of origin, CMR waybills, C88 documents and commercial invoices have been received in order to clear customs or declare a duty. With more than 60 fields in the C88 document alone, manual processing adds significant cost, increases the chance for errors and risks delaying the shipment.
While Brexit may be changing the way we do business, a powerful intelligent automation platform accelerates form processing, data entry and cross-checking requirements. Organisations that arm themselves with the right tools and technologies will easily surmount the challenges associated with Brexit and be ready to Work Like Tomorrow™—today.